Monday, August 11, 2008

17 lessons for the new marketing

There's a question I ask publishing teams planning on building websites or digital services:
What do you do if you don't have any content?
It's a question aimed at editorial peeps, generally. People who have a pile of 'content' they see as assets. As publishers, when we go digital our first response is to consider how we should re-use/re-deploy that asset.

To do without it takes your thinking to interesting places. It's the kind of thinking that results in Google, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, networked solutions playing to the power of networks and the nodes and connections (that's us folks) who create those networks.

Bill Drummond's 17 project (picture by grewlike via flickr) is, I think, asking the same question; about music.

To paraphrase Bill, now that you can access pretty much all of recorded music ever it's lost its magic for us.

Recording music (particulary the hits) was and is part of the mass production/mass media culture that the broadcast world nurtured and sustained. But the emerging networked world has less need for it and places less value on it (Why Hits Must Have Less Value in a Networked World).

His 17 project gathers choirs of 17 people. Their creations, their output, their performances are never recorded. They don't even have an audience. They are a unique, relevent experience for those who take part. And this delivers a far richer experience than listening to a long-since recorded (and therefore closed and finished) piece of music.

The networked world wants unfinished symphonies. Participatory culture is leading us to 'us' as the eighth mass media.
Think of this in the context of social networks and how messages are spread, in which we compare how communities of purpose gather to share in the co-creation of messages, to the old broadcast notions of audience and static, controlled messages.
What Bill is doing is taking us to a place where music exists but isn't recorded. Music without content. Music of course, before the broadcast/industrial age was made by the people listening to it, or at best, experienced in a unique (one off) form by small groups for whom it was relevant (carnival dancers, wedding banquets, village feasts).

The grand orchestral pieces for whom an audience was required to sit listening politely (the precurser of electronic mass broadcast) coincided with the arrival of the industrial age. The first stirrings coincided with the printing press and accelerated as the age of mass production began to pick up steam (literally).

In the networked world we are wise to ask:
  • How do we publish if we don't have content?
  • What is music without recordings?
So, if advertising is to marketing as content is to publishing then we should also ask:
  • How do we market without advertising?
If you want to change behaviour but can't run a traditional ad campaign, can't come up with your 'on brand' message and broadcast and control it, what then?

Perhaps one clue to successful connection, successful relationships in the networked world is in offering/hosting/participating in unique, relevant experiences. Co-created experiences, shared with those we think will think its cool, too.

I don't suggest publishers shouldn't make use of the content they have. Nor should marketeers completely ditch their use of advertising. Advertising (even broadcast) has a place.

I do say publishers/marketers will make better use of content/advertising when they start from the premise that they should use neither. Use the idea as a tool to unleash your networked thinking.

The conversation on this one had already started, via twitter. But please join in by posting your comments below. When I floated an idea or two about this blogpost...

Richard Marshall asked:
"Do you think it's important that the reader/consumer knows it's marketing or not? Advertorial versus content+ads?"
It's an interesting question because it reveals our distrust of marketing/advertising. We expect that the message from the centre is lieing to us (at the very least spinning the facts) and so we insist on warnings that we may be being played (eg we insist on transparency).

The new marketing should be less like traditional advertising in this way. If the message can be taken and adapted in order to be adopted it is being done so by people you trust - not by some distant third party (the brand?). If you can't trust your friends to be transparent with you - well that's perhaps down to your own choices - you can't blame the centre for that.

In the new marketing therefore the question of transparency, the need to know whether you are being marketed to or not is less relevant. Your friends (your social graph) are distributing their version of the message to you - and only if they think you will think it's cool, too.

David Bausola remarked: "Marketing is listening. Advertising is talking. Can't have one without the other. Did I just imply advertising will never die?"
Richard asked: "
What do you call conversation between consumer and brand then?
And David came back with:
Brands are deities not entities, so have to pray for help. Brands need to be nihilists so that people can prey on them
Seriously,people talk to each other. Brand has to inspire their conversation. How can Brand have dialogue when it's not an entity."

Looking forward to the discussion continuing... please add your thoughts below! Let's make this a shared, unique and relevant experience for those who wish to participate! Pass it on to anyone who you think will think it's cool, too!


  1. you come up with some amazing stuff, this has interest on about nine levels.

  2. For me, I'm beginning to wonder whether if the exclusive content we still offer on our MyFootballWriter network does little more these days than spark the next informed conversation among a community that does no more than pass through... whether or not our advertising/marketing opportunities should not offer something similar...

    ie help me editorially/content-wise to have an informed conversation among my niche community, and likewise, help me not hinder me ads-wise...

    ie/eg don't 'hinder' my journey with a static banner ad for NationalExpress, 'help' me in my journey to the next away game by offering me a simple click-through ticket time and payment option as me and my conversation are passing through...

    Because said conversations are now ebbing and flowing over us, round us and, indeed, increasingly without us; present me with a static barrier ad or content-wise and I'll just ebb and flow around you...

  3. It’s a very relevant question particularly as; media owners are debating the value of their content, brands and marketers solution to the changing landscape is in part by seeking engagement through branded content communities (I include myself in that bracket) and 30% of the population are content creators themselves and arguably a media channel in their own right.

    It’s always the easy option to create more content and some times its right but in a world of so much how much does some more matter?

    I did an interview with Peter Hirschberg (Chairman Technorati & The Conversation Group) and he took the approach that rather than create more content help the user filter and find the good stuff and your brand sits around it.

    But I think your challenge leads to even greater thinking which is probably best demonstrated in campaigns such the Guinness campaign for The Hong Kong Sevens with Ogilvy One. Rather than throw away content give useful tools designed for the long-tail. Personal, relevant and valuable social currency

  4. Jamie b...

    he took the approach that rather than create more content help the user filter and find the good stuff and your brand sits around it.

    ...which is why we're hoping to team up with my Knight News betters, Sir Tim Berners-Lee...

    ... and try to do exactly that; sit your brand around the source of the story...

  5. Bill Drummond's experiment does include recording - one note from each choir which will then be turned into some sort of composition.

    He's clearly not a marketing guy because his latest version is 100 choirs of 17 and called 1700. Wheareas he should have had 101 choirs and called it 1717 thus tieing it in with the original.

    And as I've told David - if brands are praying then it is because they're lost and desparate - whereas if they are deities then they should be answering their users' prayers.

  6. John, I'm right in thinking only the participating choirs get to hear the recorded result - and once only when they are all gathered together? By the by, think I may have mashed up attribution of your deity tweet. Will amend when I can find it! best dc

  7. ah, don't think I can have seen your tweet John because your tweets were protected from me. Just sent a request to do so.

  8. a sanskrit word, seva, opens an avenue for discussion. it can be translated as "selfless service". traditionally it is a powerful technique used for creating unity.

    we are seeking unity with people, friends, customers. giving, serving, opens the door, and it won't close because of one human fact ...people are selfish. and they love to be loved, they love to be respected, honored, recognized. if you want someone to like you, make them like themselves.

    it is so easy. all the marketer has to do is be selfless. want nothing. try to get nothing. simply give.

    i don't expect anyone to believe this, or even to achieve it. but consider this ... in a hyper-connected world, advertising and marketing cease to exist, because everyone already knows everything you have to say. you cannot guide it. your intrinsic merit and value is clear for all to see.

    there is no "other" to be marketed too. so, start with giving, end up part of everything.

  9. Greg, read this on your blog. There's something very powerful in it. I'll be chewing it over

  10. I think @gregory's point reinforces my view that good marketing begins and ends with good product or service.


The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?